Saturday, August 21, 2010
"Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne."
The smell of incense brings me back to my childhood being at Mass and knowing that something serious was happening. Whether it was burning for the Easter Vigil or the Eucharist or a funeral, it was time to behave and pay attention as the priest swung the thurible back and forth.
Early on I liked the smell which includes frankincense and myrrh. And even today I will buy sticks of incense to light in the house.
For many years, my favorite necklace was a strand of myrrh beads from my mother. Its neutral color matched with everything and it was so unusual that I'd be asked about it all the time.
I always thought of myrrh the way it was presented at the the Epiphany, in some kind of fancy urn or box, so wearing it as a piece of jewelry was fun.
It's believed that the smoke of burning incense represents the prayer of the faithful rising in Heaven or the prayers of the saints. I think of it as a sign of purification and cleansing.
St. Tarcisius is the patron saint of altar servers who are allowed to carry the incense at Mass. He was a layman born in the third century. Unfortunately, he was attacked by pagans while bringing Communion to prisoners.
St. Tarcisius's feast day is the Assumption, August 15.
"After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Then opening their treasures, they presented to Him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."